Carmelo Anthony has the back of WNBA players
The New York Knicks star is the only NBA player so far to speak up about the WNBA fines
The last time NBA players came together to shout out the WNBA, several participated in a 30-second video that aired on June 13 during Game 5 of the 2016 NBA Finals congratulating the league on its 20th anniversary.
Now, the New York Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony has stepped up to voice his disagreement with the WNBA’s fines that were assessed to players who stood in solidarity by wearing black warm-up shirts to show their concern about the recent shootings by and against police officers.
The league was not at all impressed by the manner in which the players chose to show their support. The Indiana Fever, New York Liberty and Phoenix Mercury were fined $5,000 and each player was fined $500 as the shirts violated the league’s uniform policy. While the shirts were Adidas brand — the official outfitter of the league — WNBA rules state that uniforms may not be altered in any way.
NBA players were previously viewed showing support for victims of police brutality but were not fined. LeBron James and Derrick Rose wore “I Can’t Breathe” shirts in honor of Eric Garner, who died after police placed him in a chokehold in 2014. Following that date, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement that he supports the players for their personal views but prefers they’d adhere to on-court attire rules.
No NBA players wore the “I Can’t Breathe” shirts after Silver’s statements.
“I don’t see why there would be a reason for those ladies to get fined,” Anthony said at USA Basketball training camp in Las Vegas. “Everybody has freedom of speech. This is a platform right now where everyone is affected and everyone shows their frustrations in different ways. And I don’t even think it was frustration on their behalf.”
ESPN’s Anita Marks thinks Anthony and his fellow athletes calling for change should step up in solidarity and pay the fines for the WNBA players.
The WNBA fined players after they ignored a league memo sent to teams earlier this week reminding them of the uniform policy. The memo was sent out after Minnesota Lynx, New York Liberty and Dallas Wings players wore shirts in remembrance of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, two men who were killed by police, and the five Dallas police officers who were killed in a sniper attack on July 7.
“What’s most upsetting is the way it was handled,” said Indiana Fever player representative Briann January. “You have a league that is 90, if not above 90 percent African-American, and you have an issue that is directly affecting them and the people they know and you have a league that isn’t willing to side with them.”
“It’s not a race issue, not an anti-police issue, not a black or white issue. It’s a right or wrong issue.”
WNBA President Lisa Borders said Wednesday night in statement to The Associated Press that the fines were not about the players speaking out on a social issue.
“We are proud of WNBA players’ engagement and passionate advocacy for nonviolent solutions to difficult social issues but expect them to comply with the league’s uniform guidelines,” Borders said.
Nonetheless, Indiana Fever All-Star Tamika Catchings, who is retiring at the end of the season and is the president of the players’ union, is also disappointed in the WNBA’s actions.
“Instead of the league taking a stance with us, where they tell us they appreciate our expressing our concerns like they did for Orlando, we’re fighting against each other,” she said.
The league was quick to give every team shirts in support of the Orlando tragedy in June, which the players wore.
“We were OK with that, we wanted to support that, but also they can’t pick and choose what initiatives to support and what not to support just because it doesn’t push their agenda,” Liberty guard Tanisha Wright said. “This is important to us.”
Typical WNBA fines for technical fouls or such are about half the $500 amount the players were fined for wearing the black shirts. WNBA rookies such as New York’s Adut Bulgak make roughly $40,000, so the fine is about one-eightieth of a first-year player’s salary.
Anthony spoke to The Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears and said he plans to organize a meeting with community leaders, athletes and politicians, which will take place Monday in Los Angeles, to discuss issues surrounding the recent shootings by and against police officers across the country.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.